May 3rd, 2006

Show Tonight: Art Brut

Now that I'm back from my trip and working even harder than before, I'm not going to get to do many fun things aside from the everyday domestic sort. But I can justify seeing shows that pertain to my work. That means that I'll be at The Fall show at Club Congress on Saturday -- a day that happens to be Willie Mays, Sigmund Freud, and Orson Welles's birthday, incidentally -- and at the Art Brut show tonight at Plush.

I imagine that many of my readers have some passing familiarity with The Fall, one of the only acts born of punk's first generation that has managed to remain vital without ever becoming -- or perhaps because they never became -- truly successful in a record-store sense. Together with The Ex, which I wrote about last year for Tikkun and The Mekons, they have managed to demonstrate the virtues of slogging away in spite of indifference. Their music ranges widely and is suffused with an aura of I-don't-care-what-you-want experimentation that perfectly frames the bitter greens of lead Fall guy Mark E. Smith's wordplay. You should go.

But you might have a better time at the Art Brut show. This is the band's first time playing in Tucson. Their album doesn't get released in the States until May 23rd. And they're supposed to put on a great live show. tropicopolitan's account of seeing them at this year's Coachella festival has further amped up my excitement. I know that Islands, the sequel to the Unicorns, is playing tonight at Congress. I'm willing to bet, though, that more bliss will be had at Plush, both because of Art Brut's performance-friendly songs -- Annie Holub's feature in this week's Tucson Weekly gives a nice sense of Art Brut's low-fi charms -- and because Plush is a way better venue for live music these days.

I put Art Brut's debut album on the car stereo a few months back and Skylar took to it immediately. She particularly likes the second track, "My Little Brother," which I'm making available as an advertisement for the show. It's ridiculously simple and fun, fun, fun. You can also download tracks with the band's blessings, if you like. I should point out that the song I've provided should not be regarded as exemplary. The music is typical, but the lyrics are not. Indeed, since Art Brut songs cover everything from erectile dysfunction to David Hockney to the New Musical Express, it would be very difficult to find lyrics that are typical. Suffice it to say that Art Brut keep company with the Arctic Monkeys at the leading edge of neo-punk Brit wit. I like Art Brut better, though, both from a musical and a lyrical standpoint. So you should go to tonight's show too. See you there.
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    My Little Brother - Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll
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Tombstone Roses

Our kitchen window used to look out on one of those generic brown cinderblock walls that plague Southwestern-themed subdivisions. But we made the smart decision to plant some Tombstone roses two years ago and now we see green leaves all the time and white flowers in the spring:

The prospect does wonders for my mood when I'm standing at the sink doing dishes. What's great about this particular kind of rose is that the edges of the leaves are festooned with what appear to be tiny crystals. Given the right angle, they really shine:

For those of you who don't know, BTW, they are called "Tombstone roses" because they supposedly derive from cuttings taken from the world's largest rose, a massive plant dating back to the nineteenth-century that is a major tourist attraction in Tombstone, Arizona. It could be that our roses are simply the same subspecies as that famous specimen. But I like the idea of their coming from another century.
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    Madonna of the coffee stand

No Pun Intended

You know how people will make a pun and then state, "No pun intended"? Well, I've been thinking about the structure of that confession for a long time and have concluded that its usage is really, really interesting. The only way someone can claim that a pun wasn't intended is to recognize that it's there to begin with. In conversation, that recognition usually happens right away, before the speaker moves on to her or his next statement. In that context, the confession serves as a break in the flow of speech, a reminder that the speaker is reflecting on her or his words in the wake of their utterance. But it also seems to confirm that the self-reflexive moment lags behind the moment it comments upon. Because if the speaker were policing her or his statements in advance, the pun would presumably have failed to made the cut.

What are we to make, though, of the same confession in writing? Almost any piece of writing that is made public undergoes some editorial revision. If both the pun and the confession that it wasn't intended remain in the finished product, then, their presence testifies to a decision not to edit them out. Consider this passage from a Pitchfork feature on onetime teen idol Arch Hall Jr.:
Arch Sr. produced The Choppers in 1961 as a starring vehicle (no pun intended) for his 15-year-old son, who rides around in a beaut hot rod as the leader of a local gang that strips abandoned cars and befuddles the police.
I'm fairly certain that this piece received some editorial attention. Yet the confession stands, confusing our perception of intention in the process. For the decision not to edit the confession out has to be regarded as intentional. Indeed, the sort of intention that manifests itself in the editorial process tends to conform much better to the stereotype of the rational actor who deliberates prior to doing than does the sort of intention that manifests itself in the writing process. In short, the person who confesses in writing that there was "no pun intended" is also confessing a desire to make that confession, as well as the decision that follows from it.

I just returned from a music conference where the theme was "Guilty Pleasures." I hope to compose an entry on the experience later this week. For now, though, I want to suggest that puns seem to function as guilty pleasures. Why else would someone bother to make the confession that there was, "No pun intended"? Personally, I believe strongly that the puns we make are intended, even if they tend to slip out a side door of our minds instead of through the foyer of self-reflexive consciousness. Something is doing the intending and it's inside us whether we deny it or not. Whether we want to conflate that agency with the deliberative "I" who enters into legal contracts or not, it seems foolish to pretend that it's not there. Unless, that is, there's some ancillary benefit to making the confession of a lack of intention. As far as I know, though, instances where someone was punished for making an intentional pun have been rare. So why is there such a hurry to disavow our pun-making powers?
  • Current Music
    I Don't Want To See You - Camera Obscura - Underachievers Please Try Harder
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